Sometimes when I read a biblical text, it makes almost perfect sense to me. Other times, the author's intent seems fairly obvious so I get a good feeling about what I am reading.
When I read the lectionary passage from the Gospel of John for this week, I scratched my head. This week’s text is the third of the “bread passages” in our lectionary cycle. There is a lot of bread this summer. And it's about now that many preachers and congregants start asking, "Bread, again?"
Yes, this text is about bread. But it is also a proclamation that Jesus is the Bread of Life. In John 6:35, we read: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (NIV)
Watch the video: ON Scripture: Jesus Is the Bread of Life
Is what Jesus offers such a fantastic feast that we go away feeling like we never need to eat again? Is it such an astonishing spiritual feast that we are fed by that gift continually from that time on? Is it a recurring need to reconnect to Christ to feel fed again and again? Or does that need vanish? What does this feel like?
What does it mean to feast on Jesus? Or to feast on the word – to take in the words of faith and to make them part of one’s daily life and nourishment? What does it look like to be transformed by the Word of the Lord?
These are the questions that pop into my mind as I think about this week's text. And then I think about my Granddad.
It’s About Feasting
My grandfather was a West Texas cattle rancher and farmer. He raised Hereford beef cattle and grew corn, wheat and other grains. We ate some of the most amazing grass fed beef when we went to visit. These are the kinds of steaks people only dream of eating. Every holiday feast was like a moment out of a family holiday photo in Life Magazine. We were together as a family, feasting on the bounty God had blessed the farm and family with, and it was simply marvelous.
Granddad used to say we go to church on communion Sunday to feast on the bread and juice – on those and other Sundays we feast on the Word of God as well. He would say that "anyone who goes away hungry – it’s their own dang fault." The feast is laid out, the invitation is given, and the table is before us. So if we go away hungry, why did that happen? What is stopping us from joining in the feast?
But feasting is a word that many in our world do not comprehend on a personal level. We live in a world with staggering poverty. In Philadelphia where I live, the most recent hunger statistics state that 1 in 3 persons in my city are “food insecure or hungry.” This is stunning to me. We live in a land of plenty, despite the economic downturn. We live in a world of abundance, but far too many of our brothers and sisters live without.
Looking more globally, there are places in our world where starvation and poverty are the reality for most. One in seven people on our planet are undernourished or hungry (according to www.WorldHunger.org). How do we talk about feasting in this environment?